The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Allie Marini’s “Before Fire: Divorce Poems”

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Marital Landscaping

We are uncoupling; he is sowing.

There is filth on my hands from the work of this;
I have dug this hole & he has planted flowers
while my palms are skinned, full of the stinging
ache of dirty work.

Our lawn, knee high in weeds & sand spurs, grass always needing
to be cut—the yard was a wreck, it devalued the property, was an

We buried the cat next to the azaleas & a hydrangea
that only bloomed blue once, after a drought.
We planted a dogwood (it died) next to the azaleas & hydrangea:
we didn’t know that direct sun was too much for its frail branches.

Rosemary, ordinarily such a sturdy herb,
evergreen, needled & resistant to pests & inattention:
I killed it, too. Rotted from the roots.
The only dew that poor plant collected came from my tears on it,
as the dream of the home, the marriage, the life together
rotted away from the root.

We foreclosed. We moved. The new neighbors
gave us a peace lily when the other cat died.
This time there was no garden to bury him,
no flora—tended to nor dead—to mark the spot of his grave.
I forgot to take it in when the frost came. It shriveled & withered
beneath thirty degrees & has sat there, in the pot, brown & sad,
on the back porch to an apartment we rent.

There have been peppers & tomatoes, an African violet,
& a zucchini plant that leapt
from the hanging planter to its death.
All of them dead, despite the potting soil,
watering schedules & initial care I paid them.

I have been digging this hole for a year.
It is deep & wide & collects the dew of the sea
on my hands as my blisters burst against the wood.
There is dirt beneath my fingernails, in the beds of my cuticles, mixed
like mud inside the raw meat of broken skin.

It is dirty work, this.
He plants flowers of the forest in the void,
nestles them in the loamy things I have unearthed.
They will grow under his able hands.

I plant chanterelles in the decay, the only flower that will bloom
a butter colored trumpet, a fungi, gilled & spore-bearing.
Fruiting bodies, we are short-lived.
As a mycelia, we are long lived & massive.

This selection comes from Allie Marini’s collection Before Fire: Divorce Poems, available now from ELJ Publications. Purchase your copy here!

Allie Marini holds degrees from Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net & nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for theNonBinary Review, Unbound Octavo, & Zoetic Press, and co-edits for Lucky Bastard Press with her man, performance poet B Deep. She has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review & Press, & The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of  Unmade & Other Poems (Beautysleep Press), You Might Curse Before You Bless (ELJ Publications) wingless, scorched & beautiful (Imaginary Friend Press), Before Fire (ELJ Publications), This Is How We End (Bitterzoet), Pictures From The Center Of The Universe(Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize), Cliffdiving (Nomadic Press), And When She Tasted of Knowledge (Nomadic Press), Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide To Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press), Here Comes Hell {dancing girl press}, & Heart Radicals, a collaborative collection with Les Kay, Janeen Pergrin Rastall & Sandra Marchetti (ELJ Publications).  Allie rarely sleeps, and her mother has hypothesized that she is actually a robot fueled by Diet Coke & Sri Racha. She met George R.R. Martin & did not die. Proof of immortality? Not sure, but it does make a compelling argument…Find her on the web: or @kiddeternity.

Erin Elizabeth Smith is the Creative Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts and the author of two full-length collections, The Naming of Strays (Gold Wake, 2011) and The Fear of Being Found, which will be re-released from Zoetic Press later this year. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American, 32 Poems, Zone 3, Gargoyle, Tusculum Review, andCrab Orchard Review. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing and teaches a bit of everything in the English Department at the University of Tennessee. She serves as the managing editor of Sundress Publications and The Wardrobe.


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